Phi Anhha

* 1960

  • I went to high school there. I was fifteen at that time, I went to high school. I wanted to continue in 9th grade. Was it 9th or 10th? No, I finished 9th grade in Vietnam, so I wanted to continue at 10th grade in that school, but I had a major English barrier. I wouldn’t even understand anything the teacher would teach, right? One of the members of the church, she worked part time at that high school, it’s Winona High School. So she, after hours, she would always be helping me out reading books and history and math. And I was always good at math. Math, you don’t need any language and you understand what you need to do. But, any other, like history and any class that requires reading, I basically. I never forgot this, the lady would be helping me and she would actually watch me taking the test, so I would do a lot of things separately beside the classroom, that’s how they help me at the school and that lady. Her name is Mrs. Walker, and she came here to visit us many years after that, back in the 2000 something she came here. Anyway, she would actually help me answer the right questions of all these tests. So it was like little things that I never forgot. And after that, I took the SAT, I don’t even know what I did in the SAT, I just don’t understand any question except that math part. But I think my SAT was decent enough. I got accepted to San Francisco university, no, it was San Francisco State. And so I applied and got accepted with the GPA and the SAT and I had no idea what I took with the SAT. All I know is, I can answer the math questions. The rest of it was like eenie meenie mo.

  • To me, I was fifteen at that time, it was like an adventure. I was not scared at all. And then, the next day we got out to the ocean and we see so many boats and ships and then all the small boats want to get on the big ship and I believe the big ship was already packed with people. There’s no space to lie down, so they all stand. I think there were three or four thousand people on that big ship. The captain had volunteered to pick people up and all the small boats try to get into that ship too, but they announced if any ship, small boats, or any other ship comes closer than so many meters, they’ll shoot it down. So none of the boats, or small boats, were coming near to that big ship. We were, like, hanging there for hours, and I think for the next day, too, there were hundreds or two hundred, or approximately more than a hundred boats and ships around that big ship, as I recall.

  • When we’re at the pier, there was so many people trying to leave the country by ship, by boats and all that. So that was crazy. That was two days before, that was April 28th, two days before the fall. And then we get into one of the boats, at about enough for 250 people but it was so packed that we don’t have our own room or anything like that. We just lie, you know, stay as a group, as a family in boats. And the boat is leaving the pier. I don’t know what is the name of that pier, but it is leaving and passing by many different cities at night. No actually, one of the boats, the boat had issues with the engines. The engine has four or five different engines or something like that, but three of them are not working. So on the 28th, because of that situation, they moved back to the pier, and that happened to be April 30th. So that’s when the announcement on the takeover, that the Viet Cong take over the South. And so the captain was asking if anybody who can fix the engine. So they get some people on board to help fix the engine but because of the fall we all take off on April 30th, leaving the pier again. And then about and hour in, and it was coming at night, there was a lot of fighting and shooting over the, I think that was the river, yeah. They were shooting all over and then the boat that we happened to be in had a lot of, I don’t know what it is, ammunition for the, the very huge ammunition, bullets for the machines, I don’t know what that gun, you know, military guns, big bullets. Really tall, they were taller than me and I was fifteen at that time.

  • My father is in the military and before the takeover of April 30th of 1975, the military allowed their families to leave the country. So my father got plane tickets for us to go to the airport and fly out of the country, with only one condition that my father and my two older brothers who are older than eighteen have to stay behind. So we planned, we packed and we planned for that, to leave the country. But then, on the day before that, the road to the airport got bombed so the road was blocked. For that reason, my mom was okay with that because she does not want to leave the country without her two older, my two oldest brothers. So we stayed there and my mom was in the business, was doing a side business of exchanging Vietnamese dong to [US] dollars, so she had so many people coming to her home, to our home, to exchange the money. These are the people [who] already got permission to fly out of Vietnam before the fall of April 30th. So she knew that all of these people are going, so she was anxious about that too. So we got to prepare our things are ready to go. But then because of the road block, that flying out plan is cancelled.

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    San Jose, USA, 30.07.2020

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I was not scared at all

Historic photo
Historic photo
zdroj: witness archive

Anhha Phi was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam in 1960. Her father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the South Vietnamese military and her mother had work exchanging Vietnamese dong to US dollars out of their home. The Vietnam War, or the American War in Vietnam, was raging on. In the days leading up to the Fall of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, the family made multiple attempts to leave the country. When the Viet Cong announced their takeover on April 30th of 1975, Anhha and her family finally left the country along with countless others by boat. They were dropped off in Guam as refugees and then transferred to Fort Chaffe in Arkansas, USA where they applied for American Sponsorship. At the age of fifteen, Anhha came to the United States with little knowledge of English and only the help of her family and the Lutheran Church in Winona, Minnesota who offered to sponsor her family. The family moved to California in 1978 and she finished her schooling in San Jose. She worked as an accountant and programmer before retiring in 2001. She continues to live in San Jose to this day.